Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Not upheld.
Two TV ads for Sixt Rent a Car Ltd and a video in a pinned tweet on their Twitter page seen in March 2017:
a. One TV ad showed a woman telephoning her father from a hospital room to tell him she had had triplets. Her father took the call from the driving seat of a stationary car. His right hand was out of sight but he held the phone in his left hand and replied "That's nothing". He threw the phone behind him and placed both hands on the steering wheel. The shot widened before he drove off, showing that the car had been stationary on the forecourt of a Sixt hire centre.
b. The second TV ad showed a woman telephoning her parents to tell them she had decided to move in with her "spirit guru and lover, Keith". Her mother took the call from the driving seat of a stationary car. She held the steering wheel in her right hand and the phone in her left hand and replied as the man in ad (a). She put the phone down and placed both hands on the steering wheel. As in ad (a), the shot widened before she drove off, showing that the car had been stationary on the forecourt of a Sixt hire centre.
c. The video ad, seen on 3 March 2017, showed a woman telephoning a man. She said "I'm pregnant. It's yours. I'm keeping it". The man took the call from the driving seat of a stationary car. He had both hands on the steering wheel and no phone was visible. He replied as above. Also as above, the shot widened before he drove off, showing that the car had been stationary on the forecourt of a Sixt hire centre.
The ASA received 11 complaints, raising one or more of the following issues:
1. eight in relation to ad (a);
2. four in relation to ad (b); and
3. one in relation to ad (c)
challenged whether the ads were irresponsible, because they condoned or encouraged dangerous or irresponsible driving behaviour prejudicial to safety and in breach of the legal requirements of the Highway Code.
1. & 2. Responding on behalf of themselves and Sixt Rent a Car Ltd, Clearcast said they were satisfied that the ads complied with the Highway Code and did not condone any dangerous or irresponsible driving. Their understanding was that the Highway Code allowed the use of a hand-held phone when the car was safely parked, and that the cars were safely parked within Sixt's forecourt before beginning their journey. They said the drivers in each case had their hands on the steering wheel, showing that they were in control of the vehicles. Safe driving practice was shown, with seatbelts worn and eyes looking straight ahead to the road before pulling out. They believed the impression of safety given was very different from the impression that would be given in an ad that involved similar actions around other drivers and pedestrians; that the ads had a surreal tone; and that it was unlikely that viewers would see them as realistic examples of driving styles.
3. Sixt Rent a Car Ltd believed it was apparent to the viewer that the vehicle was stationary while the driver was speaking on the phone; that no use of the phone occurred while any driving took place and that the driver's conduct adhered to the requirements of the Highway Code. They said the Highway Code permitted the use of hands-free phones provided the driver stayed in control of their vehicle at all times. They believed the ad encouraged the idea that an individual should be parked before taking a phone call, even if the phone was hands-free and technically permitted when driving and that, when each driver drove off, they promoted safe driving practice by turning their eyes to the road ahead and keeping both hands on the steering wheel.
Sixt considered the tone of the ad to be lighthearted and surreal and that it had a grotesque style that suggested it was not real life.
1., 2. & 3. Not upheld
The ASA considered viewers were likely to understand that the ads presented surreal scenes. Nevertheless, the use of mobile phones in cars and when driving had been a high-profile issue recently and we considered ads should not condone or encourage dangerous or irresponsible driving behaviour that would breach the Highway Code.
We noted that the Highway Code stated that drivers "MUST [their capitalization] exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times". It prohibited the use of hand-held mobile phones when driving and advised that hands-free equipment, while not prohibited, was likely to distract attention from the road.
We noted that ads (a) and (b) featured drivers using hand-held mobile phones in vehicles that were safely parked on the forecourts of Sixt hire centres. In each case the drivers put the phones down and placed both hands on the steering wheel before driving off. At that point in each of the ads, the drivers were in moods of quite high excitement, but we considered that it was nevertheless clear that the phones were put down before the drivers drove off and that, when he or she did so, they were exercising proper control of their vehicle.
The driver in ad (c) was using a hands-free phone and held the steering wheel with both hands during the call. Bearing in mind the subject matter of the call, and that the other occupants of the car – presumably the man's wife and children – would have heard it, the driver unsurprisingly appeared to be in a mood of quite high emotion. However, the car was again safely parked on the forecourt of a Sixt hire centre for the duration of the call. It was clear that the call had ended, and that the driver therefore was not being distracted by it, before he drove off.
We therefore concluded that the ads did not condone or encourage dangerous or irresponsible behaviour prejudicial to safety and in breach of the legal requirements of the Highway Code, and that they therefore did not breach the Code.
We investigated ads (a) and (b) under BCAP Code rules 20.1 20.1 Advertisements must not condone or encourage dangerous, competitive, inconsiderate or irresponsible driving or motorcycling. Advertisements must not suggest that driving or motorcycling safely is staid or boring. and 20.2 20.2 Advertisements must not condone or encourage a breach of the legal requirements of the Highway Code. (Motoring) but did not find them in breach.
We investigated ad (c) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 19.1 19.1 Marketing communications for motor vehicles, fuel or accessories must not depict or refer to practices that condone or encourage anti-social behaviour. and 19.2 19.2 Marketing communications must not condone or encourage unsafe or irresponsible driving. If it could be emulated, marketing communications must not depict a driving practice that is likely to condone or encourage a breach of those rules of the Highway Code that are legal requirements if that driving practice seems to take place on a public road or in a public space. Vehicles' capabilities may be demonstrated on a track or circuit if it is obviously not in use as a public highway. (Motoring) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.